We find it interesting that on the day the press is reporting South America is on the brink of war, South American newspapers are reporting several nations have pulled out of UNITAS. It appears the UNITAS exercise will consist only of the United States, Brazil, and Argentina this year.
Nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington, one of the world’s most impressive man-o-war and three other US Navy units will be participating in joint exercises with the navies from Brazil and Argentina along the coast of Rio do Janeiro, reports Correio Braziliense Friday edition.
The leading newspaper from the capital Brasilia says the exercise will begin next April 22 and will last for two weeks in the framework of the 49th edition of the Unitas joint naval exercises the US Navy has been involved with its Latinamerican counterparts since 1959.
The report goes on to say that Chile, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and now Uruguay has withdrawn from the UNITAS 2008 exercise arguing the exercises were “outdated”. There is currently no US media report with any details.
Last year the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) led Task Group 40.0, which included the Chilean frigate CS Almirante Latorre (FFG 14), in the South American exercise. Task Group 40.0 was the Partnership of the Americas (POA) 2007 deployment last year and also included USS Mitscher (DDG 57) and USS Samuel B Roberts (FFG 58). It is unclear if the report is true regarding other participants in UNITAS, but if it is true this would be a major blow to the US Navy.
What isn't clear is what this means for the Partnership of the Americas (POA) 2008 deployment, whether that deployment will include the USS George Washington (CVN 73) and its escorts or other vessels, and what this might mean for PANAMAX 2008, which is usually another major exercise of the POA deployment. This does however give insight to what the USS George Washington (CVN 73) deployment will be like for its move to Japan later this year.
With South American Navies pulling out of UNITAS, it raises other questions regarding the recent focus by the Navy to South America. While SOUTHCOM provides an outstanding statistical scorecard regarding the work the good folks on the USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) did last year on its humanitarian mission, which began in June of 2007, and was a major component of the president’s “Advancing the Cause of Social Justice in the Western Hemisphere” initiative. However, it is unclear if all of that fine work actually contributed to a measurable gain for United States foreign policy to the region. Conventional wisdom would be that it did, most specifically with the people, but with a number of the nations visited pulling out of UNITAS it raises questions regarding the impact of humanitarian assistance to the governments of nations visited. We note the measurements of polling data used in SE Asia has revealed a sharp increase in the popularity of the US there, and while we aren't sure if that is a tangible measurement, at least it is something. Where is similar polling data for SOUTHCOM?
This highlights a missing requirement for future humanitarian missions, there needs to be a tangible metric for measurement for success of failure, which is critical in the determination regarding whether this is an effective use of Naval resources or not. Good intentions and good will are not metrics, and statistics tell the work being done, but do not give good information for cost analysis for success. While we concede the expectation of success, we do not concede that it was a success until data can be presented to prove it, because too much is riding on the humanitarian strategy to simply assume it is working without evidence.
We also note that when nations pull out of an annual exercise with history dating back to 1959, something is definitely amiss in measuring successes or meeting expectations for cooperation.